Watch CBS News

19-year-old Missouri man arrested in U-Haul crash at White House security barriers

Suspect in crash near White House appears in court
Suspect accused of crashing into security barrier near White House appears in D.C. court 00:26

A U-Haul truck crashed into security barriers around Lafayette Square across the street from the White House Monday night, the Secret Service said. The driver of the truck had a Nazi flag with him when he was arrested, according to court documents.

U.S. Park Police on Tuesday identified the driver as Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, of Chesterfield, Missouri. Kandula appeared in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon, where he was determined to be a flight risk and a "significant risk to the community."

Kandula is currently charged with one federal count of depredation of property of the U.S. in excess of $1,000, according to court documents obtained by CBS News. He is expected to be transferred to federal court for a hearing Wednesday, CBS News learned. 

Park police said he was initially taken into custody on charges that included assault with a dangerous weapon and threatening harm to the president, vice president or family members.   

"There were no injuries to any Secret Service or White House personnel and the cause and manner of the crash remain under investigation," Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi tweeted.

No weapons, ammunition or explosives were found in the truck, according to court documents filed by the U.S. Secret Service Tuesday and obtained by CBS News.

A U-Haul truck is seen after crashing into security barriers around Lafayette Park across from the White House late on May 22, 2023. Chris Zaboji via Storyful

According to the court documents, at about 9:35 p.m. local time, a U.S. Park Police officer witnessed the truck drive onto a sidewalk, "sending multiple pedestrians running from the scene."

Moments later, the driver of the U-Haul slammed into the Lafayette Square barriers, backed up, and slammed into them again, the court documents state.

The officer approached the U-Haul and saw the vehicle's hood "smoking" and "liquids leaking from the undercarriage," the documents said.  

The officer then witnessed the suspect, identified as Kandula, walking around to the back of the U-Haul and pulling out a flag with a Nazi swastika and a backpack, the documents state.

The officer then ordered the suspect to the ground and searched him, finding a Missouri driver's license, per the court documents.

When later interviewed by Secret Service agents, Kandula said that he had flown from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., on a one-way ticket, arriving at 8 p.m., Monday, according to court documents.

In the interview, he made threats against President Biden, saying that he had intended to "get to the White House, seize power, and be put in charge of the nation," the documents said. 

He also stated that he had planned the attack for six months, according to the documents. 

The suspect's "acts were calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct," the documents read.

A law enforcement source told CBS News the suspect is a U.S. citizen. After driving onto Lafayette Square, he made threatening statements aimed at Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the source said. 

The source said the FBI was involved in the investigation, and the man didn't show up on any watch lists. He didn't appear to have any significant criminal record, according to checks done overnight.

A bystander told CBS Washington, D.C. affiliate WUSA that the U-Haul was trying to crash into the White House.

WUSA's Troy Pope tweeted a photo from the scene of a Nazi flag the driver apparently had in the truck:

— Rob Legare contributed to this report. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.